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T h e K i n s m a n C h ro n i c l e s

King’s Folly
Darkness Reigns: Part One
The Heir War: Part Two
The End of All Things: Part Three

King’s Blood
Kingdom at Sea: Part Four
Maelstrom: Part Five
Voices of Blood: Part Six

King’s War
The Reluctant King: Part Seven
A Deliverer Comes: Part Eight
Warriors of the Veil: Part Nine

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The K insm a n Chronicles   Book Thr ee

King’s
War
J I LL W I LLI A MSON

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on-

© 2018 by Jill Williamson

Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy,
recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception
is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-0-7642-1832-3 (trade paper)
ISBN 978-0-7642-3140-7 (cloth)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017961590

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of
the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual
events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by LOOK Design Studio

Author is represented by MacGregor Literary, Inc.

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Key Players

ARMANIA
House Hadar
Trevn-Rosâr Hadar, king of Armania Zeroah Barta-Hadar, the dowager
queen
**Hawley, Trevn’s onesent
**Ottee, Trevn’s honor man **Doth, Zeroah’s guard
**Sir Cadoc Wyser, Trevn’s High Shield **Ephec, Zeroah’s guard
Brelenah-Rosârah, the dowager queen
**Rzasa, Trevn’s backman mother
**Nietz, a guard
**Hrettah-Sârah Hadar, Trevn’s half
**Bonds, a guard sister
**Jhorn, Master of Requests **Rashah-Sârah Hadar, Trevn’s half
**Grayson, a spy sister
Mielle-Rosârah, Trevn’s wife **Enetta, Hrettah and Rashah’s nurse
**Tonis, Mielle’s onesent Inolah-Sârah Orsona-Hadar, Trevn’s
half sister, mother of Emperor Ulrik
**Pia, Mielle’s High Shield and Prince Ferro
**Bero, a guard
**Princess Vallah Orsona, Inolah’s
**Abree, Mielle’s honor maiden daughter, Emperor Ulrik’s sister
Onika [ON-ik-ah], the True Prophet, a
**Princess Tinyah Orsona, Inolah’s
blind woman daughter, Emperor Ulrik’s sister
**Kempe [KEM-pay], Onika’s personal **Sir Doran, Inolah’s High Shield
maid
**Kreah, Tinyah’s nursemaid
**Rustian, Onika’s dune cat

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  K i n g ’ s Wa r

Other Armanians
Oli Agoros, Duke of Canden Gunrik Koll, Earl of Blackpool
**Kipp, Oli’s honor man **Sabin, Gunrik’s wife
Danek Faluk, Duke of Highcliff °° Sir Jarmyn, son of Gunrik and
Sabin
**Zura, Danek’s wife
°° Hinckdan Faluk, Earl of Dacre, a °° Dendrelle, Sir Jarmyn’s wife, Tace
spy, a seer and Gitla Edekk’s daughter

Barek Hadar, Duke of Odarka Finbar Wallington, Duke of Everton,
brother of Mahat, father of Finnel Wal-
**Arzah, Barek’s wife lington
°° Lady Brisa, daughter of Barek and **Gia, Finbar’s wife
Arzah
°° Hirth, son of Finbar and Gia
°° Lady Trista, daughter of Barek and
Arzah Allain Ortropp, a nobleman

Joret Vohan, Earl of Idez Rayim Veralla, captain of the King’s
Guard
**Cabena, Joret’s wife
**Sir Keshton, Rayim’s son, an officer
°° Sir Ransen, son of Joret and Ca- in the army
bena
**Zanre, Rayim’s son, swordplay drill-
°° Enko, son of Joret and Cabena master
°° Madara, daughter of Joret and Father Burl Mathal, medial priest of the
Cabena Arman church
°° Rennik, son of Madara and Admiral Aldair Livina, admiral of the
Jarmyn Koll king’s fleet
Tace Edekk, Duke of Raine Norgam Bussie, captain of the Seffynaw
**Gitla, Tace’s wife Novan Heln, a guard
°° Lady Imara, daughter of Tace and Irlond Hearn, sheriff
Gitla
Collak Ensley, general of the Armanian
°° Lander Leevy, husband of Lady army
Imara
Rowan Winstone, marshal in the Arma-
**Captain Korvoh, captain of Tace’s nian army
private army
**Natod, Tace’s onesent

The Omatta Clan
Rand, leader of the Omatta Zahara, Rand’s daughter
Meelo, Rand’s son

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  Ji l l W i l l i a m s o n

BARTHIA
Barthel Rogedoth (also known as Prince **Eudora Agoros, daughter of Jemesha
Mergest III), self-titled king and Zeteo, Oli’s sister, Barthel’s wife
**Timmons, Barthel’s onesent **Daliza, a slight shadir, bonded to
Jemesha
**Dendron, a great shadir, bonded to
Barthel Rogedoth Filkin Yohthehreth, Rôb prophet, a
mantic
°° Paliki, a slight shadir in Dendron’s
swarm **Mikray, a common shadir, bonded
Agmado Harton/Harton Sonber, Bar- to Filkin
thel’s general, a mantic Zithel Lau, Rôb priest, a mantic
**Yobatha, a common shadir, bonded **Shama, a slight shadir, bonded to
to Harton Zithel
Captain Orbay, captain of Barthel’s Zenobia, a mantic
guard
**Kabada, a common shadir, bonded
Laviel-Rosârah, former queen of Arma- to Zenobia
nia, Barthel’s daughter Mattenelle, called Nellie, a mantic
**Iamos, a common shadir, bonded **Hwuum, a slight shadir, bonded to
to Laviel Mattenelle
Sârah Jemesha, Trevn’s aunt, Oli and Lilou Caridod, a malleant
Eudora’s mother
Mahat Wallington, a malleant, brother
**Zeteo Agoros, Jemesha’s husband, to Finbar Wallington
Oli and Eudora’s father, former Ar-
manian general Burk, a soldier

°° Sir Briden, captain of Zeteo’s army

SARIKAR
House Pitney
Princess Saria Pitney, daughter of the **Finnel Wallington, Nolia’s husband,
late King Loran son of Finbar and Gia Wallington
**Sir Menel, Saria’s guardsman °° Sir Malder, Finnel’s High Shield
**Sir Oris, Saria’s guardsman General Norcott, general of Sarikar
Princess Nolia, Saria’s aunt, sister of the Wolbair, a prophet of Arman
late King Loran

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  K i n g ’ s Wa r

RUREKAU
House Orsona
Emperor Ulrik Orsona, emperor of **Princess Jahleeah (Noyah), daughter
Rurekau of Ulrik and Jazlyn
°° Sir Iamot, Ulrik’s High Shield °° Zinetha, nursemaid to Ulrik and
Jazlyn’s children
°° Taleeb, Ulrik’s onesent
Prince Ferro Orsona, Ulrik’s younger
**Jazlyn, Ulrik’s wife, empress of Ru-
rekau, former High Queen of Tenma brother
Thallah-Rosârah Orsona, former queen
°° Qoatch [KO-ach], Jazlyn’s eunuch
slav, a seer of Armania, Trevn’s mother, Ulrik’s
great-aunt
°° Niklee, an acolyte
General Balat, head of the Igote guard
**Prince Jael (Adir), son of Ulrik and
Jazlyn Kakeeo, Rurekan sheriff

MAGOSIA
Ruling Clan
Charlon, Magosian Chieftess **Roya, Third of Charlon’s Five Maid-
ens
**Shanek, Charlon’s son
**Rurek (Gozan), a great shadir, **Rone, number Two of Charlon’s Five
bonded to Charlon Men

°° Masi, a common shadir in Gozan’s **Nuel, number Three of Charlon’s
swarm Five Men

**Sir Kalenek Veroth, protector of **Vald, number Four of Charlon’s Five
Shanek, number One of Charlon’s Men
Five Men **Gullik, number Five of Charlon’s
Five Men
**Kateen, First of Charlon’s Five Maid-
ens Amala, Kalenek’s ward, Mielle’s little
sister
**Astaa, Second of Charlon’s Five
Maidens

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  Ji l l W i l l i a m s o n

NATIVE CLANS
A h j - Ye k e G i a n t s
Bolad mi Aru, headman of Ahj-Yeke

U u l - Ye k e G i a n t s
Ulagan, Bolad’s nephew

J i i r - Ye k e G i a n t s
Abaqa mi Niseh, headman of Jiir-Yeke Duu Ovdog, a kholoi priest

Puru
Muna, a matriarch Conaw, Muna’s grandson

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Pa r t S e v e n

The
Reluctant
King

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Trevn

T he kings were dead.
The ambush, led by Fonu Edekk, had nearly destroyed the veteran
armies of Armania and Sarikar and had taken out both kings, leaving Trevn
to defend his people from the threat of takeover.
He had no idea how to do that.
As the Seffynaw anchored off the eastern coast of Er’Rets, he stood with
Mielle at the starboard rail of the quarterdeck and observed the caravan that
had assembled on the yellowed plains. It seemed like Barek Hadar had brought
every wagon in Armanguard to safely transport Trevn and his party back to
the castle stronghold.
“That’s a lot of wagons,” Mielle said, fingering the seashell on the cord
around her neck. “I’m nervous.”
Trevn felt it. The soul-binding allowed them to share each other’s emo-
tions, and right now Mielle’s apprehension was distracting him from making
plans. “Nervous about wagons?” he asked, taking hold of her chilled hand.
“About needing so many.” She met his gaze. “You have always been a
prince—been carted around in fancy carriages—but I know nothing about
being a princess, let alone a queen.”
Sweet Mouse. Trevn lifted their joined hands and kissed the back of hers.
The trip south had given Trevn plenty of time to consider his new role in the
realm of Armania. For years Wilek had trained for the position, while Trevn
had been climbing buildings and drawing maps. Still, his life had given him
plenty of perspective, while Mielle’s sole experience had been her short stint
as Zeroah’s honor maiden.

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She didn’t want to fail him.
“Father Tomek used to say that leadership is about taking responsibility,
not making excuses,” he told her.
She frowned and looked back to the procession of wagons. “That sounds
wise.”
“He was wise,” Trevn said, wishing he were here now. Wilek too. Though if
Wilek were here, Trevn wouldn’t be in this position. Wouldn’t be king of Armania.
Cadoc approached and bowed to Trevn. “We’re ready, Your Highness.”
Trevn nodded and steered his wife toward the boat fall. The sounds of their
footsteps on the wooden deck combined with those of his ever-growing reti-
nue and became a jumbled sound with no rhythm. Some two dozen people
were already waiting in the longboat. Nietz, Rzasa, and Bonds sat on the back
bench, talking and laughing, with Maleen looking on. Cadoc’s parents sat
beside Kempe, who was speaking to Grayson and Ottee about the tides. Then
came Princess Saria and her guards. The next bench had been left open for
Trevn, Mielle, and Cadoc. Trevn helped Mielle in, and Cadoc’s father rose to
receive her. Trevn vaulted himself over the railing and settled beside Mielle.
He grasped her hand and squeezed.
She was trembling.
“It will be all right,” he voiced, sending all of his comfort with his thoughts.
She returned his warm feelings, but Trevn knew better. The magic of the
soul-binding between them made it possible to trick each other, but Trevn’s
false comfort would not relieve Mielle’s anxiety.
The sailors still on board started cranking the pulleys, and the longboat low-
ered into the water. Trevn took a deep breath of chilled air and exhaled slowly.
Why had this happened?
Such a question had no answer, he knew. One choice had led to another
and another. Choices Trevn himself might have made had he been in Wilek’s
boots. After all they had been through—surviving the destruction of their
homeland, the harrowing journey across the Northsea, and a myriad of at-
tacks by traitors—it seemed a grossly unfair end to such a man as Wilek Hadar.
Why had Arman let him die? Brave, intelligent, strong, and willing to fight for
truth and goodness and righteousness, Trevn’s brother had been the perfect
man to rule Armania.
Trevn hadn’t even been able to return in time for the burial—the first in
more than two hundred years for the realm of Armania, which usually prac-
ticed shipping their dead. Trevn had given permission for rosârahs Zeroah and

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Brelenah to take charge of the ceremony. The women had given his brother a
traditional funeral of an Armanite believer and buried Wilek in a tomb they
had commissioned beneath Castle Armanguard.
“I’m sorry, Trevn,” Mielle voiced. “I’ve pulled you in again, haven’t I?”
She had, but he would not admit it. “I am perfectly well.”
He shook his head clear and forced his thoughts back to his top concerns:
determine the size of his army, build defensive outposts, and, once Hinck suc-
ceeded in his mission to sabotage Rogedoth’s evenroot supply, plan an attack.
“I feel your mind spinning,” Mielle voiced. “Arman will guide us, as I’m sure
you know. Plus, we’re alive and healthy. We’re safe. And the sun is out.”
He glanced her way and found her smiling. “I couldn’t do this without you.”
“Of course you could. Trevn, you can do anything you set your mind to. It’s
a little annoying, actually.”
His heart swelled with affection, and he leaned in and kissed his wife.
She turned her head away. “Trevn . . . people are watching.”
He sat back, discouraged that his new position would interfere with his
relationship with Mielle. They’d been married less than a week when they’d
been separated, and Trevn had spent the last year trying to get her back. In
that time he’d been captured by giants, rescued Princess Saria, located the
root child Grayson, and now Trevn was king. “Get used to it, Mouse. From now
on, people will always be watching.”
He was thankful for the soul-binding, which allowed Trevn and Mielle to
speak to each other’s minds when they were close, and the mind-speak magic,
which enabled Trevn to initiate similar conversations over distances. It gave
them a small amount of privacy they might not otherwise have.
The longboat slipped across the water to a low bank where several King’s
Guards helped Trevn and Mielle ashore. His own men—Cadoc, Maleen, Nietz,
Bonds, and Rzasa—quickly replaced the King’s Guards and ushered Trevn
and Mielle up a steep hill. The grass had yellowed since Trevn had left. The
seasons were changing. Winter would return soon.
At the top of the hill they backtracked until they reached the wagons.
Grayson, Ottee, Saria and her guards, Kempe, Cadoc’s parents, and the rest
of Trevn’s party followed behind.
Trevn approached the plain carriage in the center of the procession. It
had been parked directly behind the fancy decoy with gold-leaf trim. The
door to the plain carriage was already opened, and Barek Hadar, the Duke of
Odarka, stood waiting.

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The duke had a flat face and a receding hairline, though his gray hair had
been worked into slender coils that hung thick to his shoulders. Relief washed
over Trevn at the sight of a man he could trust to help him navigate all that
he was about to encounter. Not only was Barek a longtime member of the
Wisean Council, he had helped Trevn during the Five Woes and was Father
Tomek’s son. Trevn saw a hint of his old mentor in the man’s eyes. See? Mielle
had no cause to worry. All would be well.
The duke bowed. “Your Highness, welcome back.”
It should be a welcome time of celebration, but the loss of Wilek and so
many others overshadowed any achievements.
“Thank you for coming to meet us, Your Grace.” Trevn helped Mielle into the
carriage, then climbed in beside her. Cadoc entered last and sat opposite them.
Mielle’s apprehension thrummed through Trevn. “What is it?” he asked.
“I feel strange being parted from Madames Wyser and Stockton.”
The two women had been her companions for many months. “Did you
see the number of guards here to escort us?” Trevn said. “They’ll be all right.”
“I’m simply used to traveling with them.” Her eyes shifted to Barek Hadar,
who settled onto the bench seat beside Cadoc, directly across from Mielle.
“We are ready to depart,” the duke told a guard outside.
“Yes, lord.” The guard shut the carriage door and walked away. “Move out!”
“No problems on the journey back?” the duke asked Trevn.
“None,” Trevn said. The carriage jolted and began to roll over the uneven
terrain.
“We need to increase your guard,” the duke said. “No offense, Sir Cadoc,
but one shield is not enough to protect a king.”
“I agree, Your Grace,” Cadoc said, “which is why we have already increased
Sâr Trevn’s security detail to four.”
“He is Rosâr Trevn now,” the duke said. “Even though he has not been
crowned, the title is his. And surely you don’t mean those grimy sailors? They
are not even soldiers.”
His tone not only stung, his words shocked Trevn. While he did not know
Barek Hadar well, he hadn’t expected him to be so pompous. “Those sailors
fight as good as any soldier. I chose them myself and trust each with my
life—better, with Mielle’s life.”
“If you say so,” the duke said. “Make one of them your backman, then, and
I’ll see if I can find a few more. You should have a squadron of ten at all times.”
Ten men following him everywhere. How had Wilek remained sane?

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They were rumbling over the yellowed grass at a good clip now, but the
ride to Castle Armanguard would still take about an hour.
“You must also have a onesent,” Barek said. “Onesent to a king is a grand
responsibility. Not just anyone can be trusted with so much power and sensi-
tive information. I fear young Ottee is not up to the task.”
That much was true. Ottee had already become frantic over the prospect.
“The obvious choice is Master Schwyl, who served your father.”
“No,” Trevn said. “That man is as corrupt as my father had been. Still no
sign of Dendrick?”
“Miss Onika believes he was killed when she was taken captive.”
Immense sorrow rushed through the soul-binding. “How terrified she
must be,” Mielle said.
“Has she discovered her location or who is holding her captive?” Trevn
asked.
“She has not, Your Highness. Both Empress Inolah and the Duke of Can-
den have been voicing with her, but they have been unable to discern her
whereabouts.”
Trevn’s first thought was to send Grayson to find her, but if she was injured
or being poorly treated, well . . . Grayson might look Trevn’s age or older, but
he was really only a boy. Trevn would have to consult Master Jhorn before
sending his son on such a mission.
“Have they learned anything helpful?” Mielle asked.
“We do know that her captors speak Kinsman,” Barek said. “It seems they
were some of Randmuir Khal’s pirates who joined up with Fonu Edekk before
he left the giant village of Zuzaan.”
“Is she certain they are loyal to Rogedoth?” Trevn asked. “Hinck has heard
nothing about the prophetess being captured and doesn’t believe Rogedoth
knows.”
“She overheard her captors talking about their plans to take her to King
Barthel in exchange for favor or bounty.”
“He’s no king,” Trevn snapped. The duke’s use of the title gave the traitor-
ous usurper respect he didn’t deserve. “Might we pay the bounty instead?”
“Duke Canden believes the men are afraid to come to Armanguard after
fighting against us in the Battle of Sarikar.”
“They should be afraid,” Trevn said. They were partly responsible for Wilek’s
death, and Trevn intended to see someone brought to Justness in that matter.
The carriage crested a hill and Lake Arman came into view. The worn trail

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stretched out before them, drawing a faint line through the landscape until it
reached the lake. There it curved along the shore, working its way around the
body of water. Large swaths of the land along the east coast of the lake had
been cultivated. Dozens of Kinsman people, most dressed in black, dotted the
fields, working the harvest. Too many had died in the battle that had claimed
his brother. That these people who had endured so much could still get out of
bed each day and carry on with life impressed Trevn. Armanians were survivors.
“There have been three claims to the throne of Armania besides your own,”
the duke said. “King Barthel, of course, and one from Emperor Ulrik submit-
ted by Taleeb, his onesent, on behalf of the Rurekan council. They believe the
succession should pass through Inolah as King Echad’s firstborn.”
“The Rurekan council has no say in Armanian matters,” Trevn said, an-
noyed. “They know we’ve never followed the right of first blood. Besides,
Wilek named me his Heir the day our father died. The matter is not open to
contestation.”
“Your mother fully supports you, of course,” the duke said.
Trevn did not doubt that for a moment. It had been his mother’s lifelong
dream to see him crowned king of Armania.
“She has asked your permission to come to Armanguard.”
Trevn’s father had banished her from the realm due to her treasonous
involvement with the Lahavôtesh cult. Trevn didn’t think he could handle his
new role if his mother was here, causing trouble. “Who is the third claimant
to the throne?”
“It comes from Magosia. Ridiculous as it sounds, Chieftess Charlon claims
to be warden over Sâr Janek’s son. Says she can prove the child’s heritage.”
Already she was trying to use the babe? No wonder Wilek had been worried.
“He is baseborn, but she is not lying about his heritage,” Trevn said.
The duke’s jaw twitched. “How is it you know this?”
Trevn ignored the man’s offended tone. “The child cannot be much more
than a year old. Does she really expect us to hand over our realm to a babe?”
“She claims he is a child of prophecy. Says he has magical powers that
enabled him to grow faster than normal.”
Trevn grimaced. “I suppose that’s possible. He is special, in the same way
Grayson, son of Jhorn, was born special. The gray speckled skin. A root child.”
The duke sighed, leaned back against the carriage wall, and folded his
arms. “Your Highness, you must not keep such things from me. If I am to
advise you, I need all the facts.”

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Trevn stiffened at the duke’s condescending tone. He had not expected
the man would lecture him.
Mielle’s love gusted over him so suddenly he turned to look at her.
“Just helping you keep your temper,” she said, smiling.
He pulled her hand into his lap. “I did not ask for advice about Janek’s son,
Your Grace. Wilek swore me to secrecy in regard to the child, and I would ask
the same from you until we know if this threat is real or not.”
“You just confessed that the child has magic. Sounds like a real threat to
me.”
“We shall see,” Trevn said.
The duke cleared his throat. “Well, the legitimate line of ascension is only
five names long before it extends to distant Sarikarian cousins. It wouldn’t
take much effort to wipe out the entire Hadar line.”
The carriage swept into a deep stand of trees, and Trevn glanced out the
window at the naked branches, marveling how quickly the leaves had turned
shades of orange, red, and yellow, then fallen to the ground. Soon it would
snow again.
“Who is in the line of ascension?” Mielle asked.
“Oli and Hinck,” Trevn said.
“Emperor Ulrik is technically first,” the duke said, “then his son Adir and
his brother Ferro. Then Oli Agoros and finally Hinckdan Faluk.”
“Why do Rurekans rank above Armanians?” Mielle asked.
“Because they are Inolah’s children,” Trevn said, “and she was my father’s
firstborn. But as I’ve said, Armania does not follow the right of first blood, so
none of that matters.”
“It matters because you have yet to be crowned and to name your suc-
cessor,” the duke said. “Since you have no brothers or children, there is no
obvious choice for your Heir. That has people digging deep into the line of
succession for other options.”
Mielle’s annoyance flared. “Even though Rosâr Wilek named Trevn his Heir?”
“Transfer of power is always a tenuous time,” the duke said.
If Trevn was going to keep trouble at bay, he would have to deal with this
quickly. “Schedule my coronation ceremony as soon as you are able. Mielle will
be crowned beside me—on that I will not negotiate. As to my Heir, I will write
a directive bypassing my nephews and any children they have or might have.”
“I am not so sure we should write out Emperor Ulrik altogether,” the duke
said. “He has experience ruling a nation.”

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“Very little,” Trevn said. “And his values do not align with mine or Wilek’s.
After all you and your father did to get an Armanite on the throne, I’m surprised
you would even consider a follower of Sheresh.”
“I certainly don’t want that at all,” Barek said. “I do feel, however, that
stability is the most important factor at present. Oli was raised much like Sâr
Janek and was a member of the Lahavôtesh, so—”
“Which he betrayed to help Wilek,” Trevn said.
“Still, his faith is questionable. And Hinckdan Faluk—”
“Converted when Arman saved his life,” Trevn said.
“Yes, but many think him a traitor from his behavior aboard the Seffynaw.
Besides, there is little hope of introducing a new faith to the general populace
with King Barthel threatening to overthrow us.”
“Barthel Rogedoth is not a king, Your Grace! You will stop calling him such.”
The duke blinked. “Forgive me, Your Highness. I meant no offense.”
“As to the succession,” Trevn said, pausing in an effort to calm himself,
“that puts Oli and Hinck as First and Second Arm.”
“Until you have an heir of your own.” The duke looked out the window
and swallowed. “May I suggest you work on that right away?”
Mielle squeezed Trevn’s hand, and her amusement wound through him.
“You may suggest it. . . .” Trevn squeezed back. “So, Oli will become First
Arm, but if Hinck is to act as Second Arm, he cannot remain a spy. He is cur-
rently looking for a way to sabotage Barthel Rogedoth’s evenroot supply. Once
he succeeds, we must find a way to bring him home.” Trevn motioned to the
duke’s scroll, pleased how naturally the task of ruling was coming to him so
far. “Write that down.”
The duke sighed heavily and scratched his nub of charcoal over the parch-
ment. “Very well, Your Highness. You must also make a new appointment to
the Wisean Council.”
To replace Rystan, who had died far too young. “Joret Vohan,” Trevn said.
“If he is willing.” The other nobles all had ties to Rogedoth, but the Earl of
Idez had always supported Wilek.
“Poor Zeroah,” Mielle said. “She has lost everyone who mattered to her.
How is she?”
“She has been in confinement,” the duke said. “I hope seeing you both
will cheer her.”
The carriage passed out of the forested area and the castle came back into
view, still several miles off and seeming to float on the surface of the lake like a

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ship. The fortress looked small from here, especially compared to what Castle
Everton had been back in the Five Realms.
“Another thing, Your Highness. You must start holding court.”
“No.” Trevn felt strongly about this. “Wilek did not hold court, and I see
no reason to do so either.”
“There is a very good reason,” Barek said. “The nobles feel unimportant.”
“They are no better than any commoner, in my opinion,” Trevn said.
“That is untrue, Your Highness. Nobles have more power than commoners—
they can influence the people to serve you or not. You need their support—
their soldiers, their laborers. The kingdom is confused and somewhat divided
after Rosâr Wilek’s short rule. He hadn’t enough time to develop stability in
the realm. Holding court is a quick way to let your nobility know they matter,
and if they know they matter, they will extend that feeling to the people.”
“I cannot stomach bootlicking,” Trevn said. “And the people have always
liked me.”
“I could go in your place,” Mielle said.
“No, Mouse,” Trevn said. “I would not wish that upon my worst enemy.”
“I agree it can be ridiculous nonsense,” Mielle said, “but I can do it. Do you
think it would help if I held court in Trevn’s stead, Master Barek?”
“It’s ‘Your Grace’ when speaking to a duke, Mielle,” Trevn said. “A prime
reason why you are not ready to hold court.”
“The queen can be taught,” Barek said. “She will need to learn such things,
anyway. She could be a help to you, though some will not attend a court of
the queen when it is the king’s ear they want.”
Trevn frowned at Mielle, not liking any of this. “If you took Zeroah or Inolah
with you—at least at first . . .”
“If they are willing,” Mielle said. “It might be too much for Zeroah, in her
grieving.”
“You ask Inolah and I will ask Zeroah,” Trevn said. “If one of them will ac-
company you, I will permit it.”
He felt annoyance simmer within Mielle, who looked out the window. Why
would she be upset when he had given in?
“Are you angry?” he asked her.
“No.”
“I can feel it, Mouse.”
“If I am a Mouse, what are you? A cat?”
“What?”

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She shot him a quick, glossy-eyed glare, then resumed looking out the window.
“Can I look forward to begging for your consent any time I want to do something?”
Now Trevn’s own annoyance mingled with Mielle’s, quickly enhancing the
emotion. “That’s not fair,” he said aloud.
Cadoc frowned at Trevn, looking puzzled.
“Beg your pardon, Your Highness?” Barek asked.
Trevn’s cheeks heated. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize,” Barek said. “If you are displeased, I would like to
know why, so that—”
“I was voicing Mielle,” Trevn said.
“Ah.” Barek looked between them and fought a smile.
His reaction only fueled Trevn’s displeasure. “Something amuse you, Your
Grace?”
“No, Your Highness.” He sobered and grew suddenly interested in his scroll
again.
A sudden lightness flooded Trevn’s heart, and a giggle pulled his attention
to Mielle, who was holding her hand over her mouth, eyes still moist but now
sparkling as they held his gaze.
He pulled her hand away and tucked it behind his back. “Now you’re laugh-
ing too?” he voiced.
“I’m sorry,” she said, leaning close. “But he sure jumps to please you.”
“At least somebody does.”
She elbowed him. “Don’t be a nuisance. I know you’re simply trying to keep
me safe.”
He kissed her cheek. “So you forgive me?”
“I will always forgive you.” She pressed her mouth to his, her emotions quickly
consuming him. He leaned into her, happy to indulge in a moment of reprieve.
A faint awkwardness pressed against Trevn’s senses. Mielle pulled away,
rested her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes. Trevn sat back and real-
ized that the source of the awkwardness was coming from Cadoc and Barek,
who were each looking out the windows.
This amused Trevn, and he sat back and looked out his own window.
They passed through grassy plains, hilly in parts, with sparse trees of average
height—none so magnificent as the trees in the giants’ forest. The procession
passed by two settlements of the nomadic Puru people. They had followed
the herd south for the summer and, if last year was any indication, would be
starting north again soon.

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“How safe is Armanguard?” Trevn asked. “I know we lost many in the battle.
Are we vulnerable?”
“Castle Armanguard is currently well fortified,” Barek said, “as is the sur-
rounding settlement. Rosâr Wilek took only half his army so that we would
be protected. With those who survived the Battle of Sarikar, we have just over
twenty-four hundred soldiers. General Zeteo Agoros, as you know, has joined
his wife in supporting Rogedoth, so you will need to appoint a new general.
Under-General Collak Ensley has been temporarily filling the position, and
I think he would make a fine—”
“Why not promote Captain Veralla to general?” Trevn asked.
“He has never served in the army, Your Highness, but in the Queen’s Guard,
and then unofficially as Rosâr Wilek’s captain of the King’s Guard after Cap-
tain Alpress’s death. Under the circumstances, appointing him to any new
position would be unwise.”
“Has Captain Veralla’s condition changed?” Trevn asked, alarmed. “I thought
the physician released him.”
“You misunderstand me, Your Highness. The captain is in fine health, but
he is in the dungeon awaiting his trial for deficiency. Novan Heln faces the
same charge.”
This Trevn found absurd. “Since when is it a crime to lose a war?”
“It is a crime to fail to defend and protect the king. Both took oaths to do
so, and both violated them when they allowed Rosâr Wilek to die.”
“The council brought forth these charges?” Trevn asked.
“That was not necessary, Your Highness. It is tradition. They will hang,
once you sign the order.”
A pang struck Trevn’s heart. “Absolutely not,” he said. “They are well-trained,
experienced men. We need them.”
“You said you wanted Justness for your brother’s death,” Barek said.
“For those responsible for luring us into a trap. Barthel Rogedoth and
whoever was working with Fonu Edekk. Not Wilek’s closest friends.”
“But they are failures,” Barek said. “The other soldiers will not follow any-
one so accursed.”
“Superstitions are the makings of nonsense, Your Grace,” Trevn said. “You
have read the Book of Arman. I am surprised you would entertain such folly.”
“The lesser penalty is to have their sword hand chopped off, but the king’s
death is worth more, don’t you think?”
“I think you are not hearing me,” Trevn said. “Wilek would be mortified

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to hear us contemplating the execution of his two closest companions for
nothing more than obeying his orders. It will not be done, and that is final. I
want both men released immediately.”
Trevn felt Mielle’s pride course through him. The duke, however, looked
to be fighting an outburst.
“I am glad to see you found your confidence on the journey home,” the
duke said. “But I must caution you in making rash decisions without consulting
your elders. Just because you are the king of Armania, don’t think that means
you can change decades of tradition to your liking. There will be consequences
to every choice you make, so choose carefully.”
Mielle’s anger burned into Trevn, and he had to fight to keep himself from
being swept along. His mind-speak magic enabled him to sense that the duke’s
words had been kindly meant, but they only increased the pressure loom-
ing over Trevn. He’d never considered that he and Barek Hadar would differ
on so many issues, but the duke’s little speech had reminded him that this
man was not Father Tomek. Trevn couldn’t rely on assumptions in regard to
any man’s character. He would need to quickly figure out dozens of agendas,
because everyone would be watching him, criticizing his every move, waiting
for him to make mistakes. He could not afford even one misstep. The wrong
choice could ruin them all.

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Oli

O li knew without asking that the empress was on the roof. His voic-
ing ability had developed into a sixth sense when it came to lo-
cating other gifted people. He only need let his mind quest, then seek out
her uniqueness. It was difficult to explain how he did this since it happened
rather instinctively. He followed the circling stairwell to the roof, and as he
passed through the doorway, a gust of cool wind lifted away the stuffy castle
air. Inolah stood at the parapet looking southeast.
“Anything yet?” he asked.
She glanced over her shoulder, then calmly resumed her original posture.
“No.”
“Why not voice Barek for an update?”
“Voicing is an amazing magic, Your Grace, but sometimes I simply want to
use my eyes and ears and practice patience like a normal person.”
Oli stopped beside her and set his hands on the stone crenellation. One
hand of flesh and blood, another carved of wood, now scuffed and worn. He
well understood the desire for normalcy and knew how little she liked this
new magic. “That is why I came up here, rather than voice you.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Again she did not come. I waited half an hour.”
Inolah’s shoulders curled inward and she sighed softly. “She is suffering.
We all are.”
Sorrow crawled up Oli’s throat then, threatening to consume him. He forced
it down. Rosârah Zeroah could hide away as long as she needed to, but he

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could not. There was far too much to be done at present. “What can I do if
she won’t come?”
“I’m sure you have other tasks, Your Grace,” Inolah said. “Work with the
boys?”
“Teaching her to shield was the last thing he asked of me.”
“And you will do it, when she is ready.”
“We are talking of Zeroah Barta-Hadar. She might never be ready.”
“She might look frail, but she has bones of bronze. I promise she will sur-
prise you.”
Oli doubted that. He had known the newly widowed queen since she was
a child. She had always been predictably Sarikarian—temperate and pious.
She might have bones of bronze, but she had a disposition to match. She was
not a woman to give way once her mind was set, and like Inolah, she disliked
the voicing magic.
“I am far more concerned about my youngest brother,” Inolah said. “I don’t
know Trevn at all. They say he is a troublemaker. That he plays more than he
works. I did not see that in his behavior aboard the Seffynaw. He proved the
opposite of every rumor. Still I wonder . . . can he handle this burden?”
Oli did not think so, but he would never speak such things aloud. “It is
unfortunate he trained for the priesthood. We could use a military man at
present.”
She cocked an eyebrow his way. “Like you?”
Warmth spread through his chest. “That is not what I meant. I have no
desire to rule.”
“Neither does Trevn, I daresay. Barek is afraid someone will kill him and is
determined to increase his guard. He says Rosâr Wilek should not have had
only one guard with him when he died.”
“Even with five dozen guardsmen, one cannot predict what will happen in
the heat of battle. Rosâr Wilek made his choice to try to rescue Miss Onika. It
was a noble and righteous decision, and I will not fault him for it.”
Inolah looked back out over the lake. “A lot of good it did anyone.”
“She is alive,” Oli said. “That is something.”
“They never planned to kill her,” Inolah said. “Had Wilek let her be, he
might be alive now.”
It was true; he might. But Oli did not expect a woman to understand deci-
sions made in the chaos of battle.
“Have you communicated with Miss Onika lately?” Inolah asked.

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“Not since yesterday, but I can sense her awareness.”
Inolah huffed. “I think you imagine that you can sense a person’s aware-
ness.”
“I knew you were on the roof, didn’t I?”
“You could have found me by making inquiries.”
“I made no inquiries. I sensed your awareness, just as I sense hers.”
“Where is she, then, Your Grace? Use your magic, if you can. Because if we
cannot find her, my brother died for nothing.”
Oli closed his eyes and sought out the pale prophetess. His mind’s eye trav-
eled thorough the castle at breakneck speed, in and out of rooms and down
the spiral staircase, then suddenly jumped to a camp in a forested area. The
mismatched tents gave the appearance of a refugee camp, but the circular
formation suggested a military operation. Oli drew near one tent in particular.
It was smaller than many of the others and located on the outskirts of camp.
He passed through the green canvas of the tent and found himself looking
down on the interior from above. A woman lay on a pallet. She had pale skin
and nearly white hair. Miss Onika. She appeared to be sleeping.
“I see her,” he said, keeping his eyes closed. “She is in a tent in a military
camp.”
“She has told us that much,” Inolah said.
Oli tried to back away and instantly found himself on the castle roof again.
He blew out a frustrated sigh and opened his eyes. “If I had better control
and could keep my mind from jumping, I might be able to trace my way to
the location of the—”
“There,” Inolah said, pointing across the lake to the east. “Armania’s new
king comes.”
Oli followed her gaze to the procession, which, from this distance, looked
like a line of beetles. Uneasiness filled his stomach. If Trevn Hadar were able
to rule himself with some consistent level of decorum, Oli might have faith
in the young man commanding their realm, but the firebrand of Castle Ever-
ton had never been known for practicality or restraint. Still, Rosâr Wilek had
believed in his little brother enough to make him his Heir. That had to count
for something.
Didn’t it?

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Trevn

W ith the castle isolated on its island, nearly impregnable and acces-
sible only by water, commoners could not congregate outside the
castle gate as they had done in Everton. The bargemen were not permitted to
take just anyone across. So the people gathered at the pier gates, even though
their chances of seeing any royalty were usually quite slim.
Today was an exception, however, and when the procession stopped in-
side the gates and Trevn climbed out of the carriage, the crowd grew rowdy,
yelling out his name.
“Rosâr Trevn will help us!”
“He’s a good sort.”
“The people’s king, he’ll be!”
Trevn reached out for them with his mind and sensed a hodgepodge of
emotions, the strongest of which were eagerness, excitement, and overwhelm-
ing concern.
He helped Mielle down from the carriage. It seemed colder here, near the
water, and he pulled her cloak closed in front. “I’m going to speak with the
people,” he said. “Would you like to come?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
“Today might not be the best day,” Barek said. “The crowds have been
rude and uncivilized of late.”
“Then I shall find out why,” Trevn said, leading Mielle toward the gate. He
had always been a favorite of the people for the very reason that he consis-
tently made time to talk with them. After being gone so long, he would not
pass them by without a word.

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Cadoc whistled, and Nietz, Rzasa, and Bonds came running. The four men
spaced themselves out around Trevn and Mielle and escorted them to the
gate that separated the road from the pier.
As they neared, the crowd got even louder. Trevn tried to make out the
words. Hungry . . . Dead . . . Stolen . . . Something about a tree . . . a missing
child . . .
“Hush now!” Cadoc yelled, waving his hands. “His Highness wants to hear
you, but you must speak in turn.”
The crowd quieted, and one man’s voice rose from the back. “Outlaws
stole five of my sheep.”
“Took eight from me!” yelled another.
“Stole laundry right off my lines.”
“Emptied my cellar!”
A woman in front, hands clutching the bars, said, “My child was taken, but
I think it was giants. Will you help me find him? He’s just a boy.”
“What is his name?” Trevn asked.
“Hedry. He is six years old.”
“My Alpert was taken too!” a man yelled.
“We will look for your children,” Trevn said. “Mielle, please learn their
names, ages, and descriptions.”
Mielle stepped close to the woman at the gate.
“We don’t have enough food for winter,” another man yelled. “Our lord
takes our crops and leaves none for us who grew them.”
“He means the Duke of Raine,” another man said. “Conscripted my boys
into his army.”
“Took my son too!”
Tace Edekk, Fonu’s father. “I will speak with him,” Trevn said, not at all
looking forward to it. “And I will not let anyone starve.”
“How you going to feed us all?” A man’s voice. “Food goes into Castle Ar-
manguard, but it don’t come out.”
Trevn didn’t have an answer. “You who work the fields, do you take no
share for yourselves?”
“That’s against the rules,” a woman said. “Our lords pay us our share, but
lately there hasn’t been enough.”
“Not enough to feed the workers?” Trevn couldn’t believe it. “What lord
do you serve?”
“Lord Blackpool.”

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  K i n g ’ s Wa r

“I will speak with the earl and find a solution,” Trevn said.
“My sons were killed in Rosâr Wilek’s war!” a man shouted.
“Mine too. Died on a fool’s errand.”
“Died for a trick.”
“Died for nothing!”
Trevn choked up at the grief he felt in these voices. “Your men died for our
freedom,” he said. “As did Rosâr Wilek. They are all of them heroes.”
This quieted the crowd.
“I will see to your concerns,” Trevn said, then led Mielle away from the
gate and onto the barge. They stopped at the rail beside Cadoc’s parents. The
bargemen pushed off the pier, and the craft began to carry them across the
lake toward the castle.

Barek Hadar had seated himself beside Princess Saria on the bench that
ran around the bow. Mielle released Trevn’s arm and walked straight up to
the duke.
“Why do you ignore them?” she asked, gesturing back to the people at
the gate.
“Commoners always protest,” Barek said. “It’s been that way for decades.”
Trevn followed his wife. “Who from the castle hears their complaints?”
he asked.
“None that I’m aware of,” Barek said. “Rosâr Wilek talked of reinstating the
Rosâr’s Bench but never had the time. Nor do you have time at present, Your
Highness, so I suggest you put it out of your mind for now.”
“I will do no such thing,” Trevn said. “Make a list of worthy men I can
consider for the title Master of Requests and submit it to me for approval.
This person will take down each and every complaint the people have and
give a daily report to me.”
“To us,” Mielle said, taking Trevn’s arm. “I would very much like to help.”
Trevn gave his wife a single nod of agreement. “There were several com-
plaints about missing boys, and some accused the Duke of Raine of taking
them for his army,” he said. “Those are usually paid positions, are they not?”
“The duke pays his army, yes, and he cannot conscript underage boys
without their parents’ permission.”
“Look into it,” Trevn said. “The people also mentioned some outlaws.”
“Food and animals have been stolen from several farms, but the sheriff

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believes the thieves are not outlaws but men sent by one of the lords to cause
dissent against the throne.”
As if the throne didn’t have trouble enough. “Sent by Lord Edekk?” Trevn
guessed.
“Could be.”
Trevn felt overwhelmed and took a seat on the other side of Princess Saria.
Mielle sat beside him and wrapped her arm around his waist, settling her
head against his shoulder. Her warmth felt nice in the chilled air, but Trevn’s
thoughts were too scattered to relax. He had always been able to pick and
choose which problems had interested him, but now every little thing would
be laid at his feet. He wasn’t sure how to manage it all.
“Trouble on your first day?” Saria asked.
“A king always has problems of some kind,” Trevn said.
“You think you have problems?” she said. “I’m going to have to find myself
a husband very quickly since you got yourself out of our betrothal.”
Trevn felt Mielle stiffen beside him, and he sent joyous thoughts her way.
He had continually made it clear that Saria Pitney was like a sister to him and
their betrothal had been a sham Wilek had devised to appease King Loran.
“Will you stay here long?” Mielle asked.
“Just the night,” Saria said. “I must return before my ragtag council gives
rule of my realm to someone unworthy. Women can’t rule in Sarikar, and since
all the royal males were killed, they are quite desperate. But I can’t let them
give the throne to just any man, nor will I marry just any man.”
“I could ask Hinck to marry you,” Trevn said, winking.
Saria rolled her eyes. “Oh, do go on, Trevn. To have a husband who would
put spiders in my bed, jelly in my soap dish, and call me Sorry Odd all day? I
confess it has always been my dearest wish.”
Trevn chuckled. “Yes, well, I do believe your Stink Man has given up most
of his pranking ways.”
“Did he ever tell you about our little romance?” Saria asked.
Trevn balked. “You and Hinck? When?”
“When you went to King Echad’s wedding to Lady Ojeda. Kanzer invited
him to Faynor to hunt.”
Trevn couldn’t believe it. “He never even hinted that something had hap-
pened.”
Saria shrugged. “It wasn’t anything worth telling, I suppose. The trip was
short, and once we returned to Pixford, life went back to its routine and Hinck

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  K i n g ’ s Wa r

went back to teasing me. Rosârah Mielle, let me tell you about the time I
entered my bedchamber to find three pigs running wild. They had numbers
one, three, and four painted in charcoal on their sides. I spent three days
looking for pig number two.”
“Until I had mercy and told her Hinck had never brought in a second pig,”
Trevn said.
Mielle laughed, and Trevn and Saria joined in.
“That was my life with two spoiled boys growing up in my home,” Saria said.
Trevn smiled at the fond memories, saddened at the knowledge that he
would never visit Brixmead again, but as they neared the castle entrance, a
nostalgic sense of home pleased him. That anything felt like home at this
point in his life seemed hopeful. Trevn thought of the grieving commoners
out working the fields. If they could endure in the wake of such loss and
hardship, then he—despite the growing adversity surrounding him—must
also find the courage to carry on.

They reached the pier on the other side and climbed out of the barge. As
they walked under the castle gatehouse and through the outer bailey, Trevn
noted the busyness of a castle preparing for winter. Several coopers were
hard at work assembling barrels for storage. Carts of hay, fruit, nuts, wheat,
and jugs of milk were being transported inside, either for storage in the cellar
or to the kitchen for making cheese. A crowd around the butcher area was
assisting with the slaughtering of livestock.
By the time they entered the inner bailey, a crowd had formed in two lines,
parted by the guards leading the procession. Everyone was talking, and Trevn
sensed frustration and annoyance above all other emotions. These soldiers
were in the way of hardworking people with much to do. He again noted how
many were dressed in black mourning clothes. Too many had died.
A child’s voice cut through the din. “There he is! It’s Sâr Trevn. And Miss
Mielle too.”
Trevn felt the crowd’s mood shift into a barrage of conflicting emotions:
relief, hope, frustration, though curiosity rose above all else as wandering
stares sought him out.
Those who saw him surged forward, calling his name. The soldiers pushed
back, fighting to maintain the path to the castle doors. Mielle clutched Trevn’s

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  Ji l l W i l l i a m s o n

arm and he pulled her through the narrow space, desiring only to get her
safely inside before they both were trampled.
They passed through the arched doorway. Now inside the stone walls, the
noise instantly dampened, but it was not much warmer. A reception awaited
at the foot of the spiral staircase, the entire crowd dressed in blacks. Trevn
first saw his sister Inolah standing with her daughter Vallah and holding baby
Tinyah. Beside Vallah stood Jhorn—the double amputee who had raised Gray-
son—holding himself up on his canes, then Oli Agoros and Danek Faluk. To
their left, Rosârah Brelenah and Trevn’s younger sisters Hrettah and Rashah.
Many other nobles and various servants were present as well.
The crowd bobbed unevenly as men bowed and women curtsied. No one
rushed to embrace him. Even Rashah stood dutifully in place.
“Jhorn!” Grayson, who’d been traveling with the larger retinue this entire
time, pushed past Trevn and ran to the legless man. He dropped to his knees
and the two embraced.
Trevn, as the king of Armania, received no such greeting. He disliked the
level of decorum everyone was exhibiting toward him, but protocol demanded
a formal respect and honor toward the crown, and he might as well get used
to it.
Oli Agoros stepped forward and bowed swiftly. “Welcome back to Castle
Armanguard, Your Highness,” he said.
Trevn took a deep breath. “Good midday, everyone. I am glad to be home.”
Rosârah Brelenah emerged second and curtsied deeply before Trevn and
Mielle. Inolah and Wilek’s mother had always been a stunning woman, but grief
seemed to have aged her, adding new creases on her forehead and around her
eyes. “Your Highness, we were so pleased to hear that you found your bride
safe and were able to bring her home,” she said.
“As was I,” Trevn replied.
“And Princess Saria too,” she added. “Welcome to Armanguard, my dear.
I am so sorry for your great losses.”
Saria curtsied. “Thank you, rosârah.”
Rosârah Brelenah stepped close to Trevn. “If it pleases you, sir,” she said
softly, “I offer you my onesent, Master Hawley. He has been with me since I
came of age. He is very capable, wise, and above all, completely trustworthy.”
A surge of relief ran through Trevn at one problem solved. Rosârah Bre-
lenah was one of the few people he trusted without question, and he had
always liked Master Hawley. Ottee would be grateful as well. The boy could

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continue on as Trevn’s honor man without needing to worry about carrying
the administrative burdens of an entire realm.
“Are you sure you can part with him, madam?” Trevn asked the former
queen.
“I will miss his company dearly, but anything that will make your transition
easier is far more important.”
Trevn reached into her mind. “No one is forcing you to give him up?”
“Not at all. I want to help.”
“Very well,” Trevn said. “I thank you, rosârah. I know what a sacrifice this
must be, for both of you. Please have Master Hawley report to my office directly
after morning bells tomorrow. And, rosârah, I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
“My son’s death was a great loss for us all,” Brelenah said.
A moment of silence stretched out, and Trevn found himself looking at
the floor as he fought off yet another surge of sorrow.
“Where is Rosârah Zeroah?” Mielle asked.
“In her chambers,” Brelenah said. “She is not feeling well this morning.”
Mielle turned to Trevn. “I must go to Zeroah.”
He nodded. “Cadoc, send Nietz and Rzasa with my wife. She is to be pro-
tected at all times. Kempe goes with her as well.”
The arrangements were quickly made. As Mielle and her entourage as-
cended the stairs, Trevn reminded himself to appoint a separate guard for
his wife. Perhaps Captain Veralla would have some ideas.
“Has Rosârah Zeroah been ill this whole time?” he asked, curious if the
woman still suffered effects of the poison that had been inflicted upon her.
“I think it more grief than illness, sir,” Rosârah Brelenah said. “However,
I have not pressured her to join us, as the Duke of Canden is concerned she
might be a window through which the enemy could spy, due to her inability to
shield her mind. She is the only gifted person we know of who never learned.”
Trevn met the duke’s gaze. “Is this true?”
“She has refused to come to a single mind-speak lesson,” Oli said, coming
to stand beside Trevn. “Rosâr Wilek felt it imperative that she learn.”
“I agree she must,” Trevn said. “I will see that she complies as soon as
possible, Your Grace. Perhaps Mielle can convince her.”
“I hope that will help, Your Highness,” Oli said.
“Are you hungry, sir?” Barek asked Trevn.
“Not really, but I would like to—”

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“Trevn!” Hinck’s voice burst into Trevn’s mind. “Rogedoth is about to set sail
for the mainland on his quest to conquer the father realms.”
“Sir . . . ?” Barek asked.
“A moment, Your Grace,” Trevn said. “The Earl of Dacre is voicing me with
an urgent message.” Trevn took a seat on a bench on the outer wall and leaned
back against the cool stone.
“When does he leave, Hinck?”
“He plans to set sail in the morning. I’ve been eavesdropping on Lady Mat-
tenelle, who is in a meeting with his acolytes now. He just announced his plans
to ready all nine of his ships to depart tomorrow after breakfast.”
“He has nine ships?” Trevn asked. “And enough people to fill them?”
“He has ten ships, actually, but one is beached for repairs and he is leaving it
behind. Only two of his ships are even close to the size of the Seffynaw, though.
The others are much smaller. His compelled Puru army is over fifteen hundred
strong, and he also has three hundred of his own men.”
“That is still fewer than we have,” Trevn said.
“And you have some time to prepare,” Hinck said. “He is setting sail for the
coast nearest Rurekau. He plans to go there first and work his way toward you.”
“I will let Ulrik . . .” Trevn sighed, remembering that both his Rurekan
nephews were bedridden, having been poisoned. “I will let my mother know
at once. You were not summoned to this meeting?”
“It’s been weeks since I’ve been summoned even to breakfast,” Hinck said.
“Confirmation that he suspects you still.”
“Yes, but I’m not the only one. He told Rosârah Laviel she must rule the isle
and care for Eudora while he is away. He is leaving some of the Puru behind
to defend her, should she need aid. He promised to send for them once he has
taken Armanguard. Rosârah Laviel is quite put out at being left behind.”
Fear for Hinck overwhelmed Trevn. “The mission to destroy Rogedoth’s
evenroot—it’s too risky, Hinck. Especially now with Rogedoth leaving.”
“Too late, Your Indecisiveness. I’ve been at it for the past hour. My arms are
cramped, my trousers soaked, but I’ve refilled nearly all his bottles with water.”
Triumph at Hinck’s cleverness overshadowed his worry for a moment.
“How many are left?”
“Only eleven. I had hoped to be done by now, but there were more bottles
than I had expected—thirty-six total.”
So many. Hinck had just saved all their lives. “Perhaps you should stop

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now,” Trevn said. “If Rogedoth is leaving, he will likely take his evenroot with
him. Are you certain you’re safe?”
“Fairly,” Hinck said. “He is still in his meeting at the moment.”
“Fairly does not ensure strong enough odds for me, Hinck. You are the Second
Arm of Armania now. I need you alive. In fact, I need you here.”
“Second Arm, bah. I well remember how you behaved as Second Arm, and
it was rarely to obey your father.”
“Hinck—”
“Trev, please. Let me finish. Without his evenroot, he is only an old man.”
A glorious notion. “Only eleven bottles left?”
“Nine now.”
Praise Arman, this was magnificent news. “What about dry root? And plants?
Does he have any other stores?”
“There is a large store of evenroot tubers in the village cellar, but it is all the
new root from the field he harvested this summer. None of it is magical. He very
well might have more powder or liquid kept elsewhere, but I have no idea how
to find out. I only learned about these bottles because Nellie saw them on the . . .”
His friend’s silence concerned him. “Hinck?”
“Someone’s coming.”
“Get out of there!”
“I can’t!”
Trevn closed his eyes and looked out through Hinck’s. A small, dark room
came into focus. Waist-high racks filled with dark bottles lined the walls. Hinck
was in the process of carrying a bucket of water behind the door. The dirt floor
was soaked, pockmarked in places and filled with puddles of liquid.
The door swung in, and Hinck barely managed to slip behind it with his
bucket. A woman entered, dressed in an elaborate green gown, her straight
black hair unmistakable.
Rosârah Laviel.
“The meeting must have ended,” Hinck voiced. “I should have waited to
tell you about Rogedoth so I could keep a closer watch on Nellie. Laviel will
kill me. I know it.”
“Relax, Hinck. Remain still.” Though Trevn’s own anxiety for his friend was
making him tremble.
Rosârah Laviel glanced at the floor, lifted her skirts off the wetness, then
stepped carefully forward. Trevn could feel the fear buoy inside Hinck’s chest
as he leaned forward, eager to slip around the opened door and run to safety.

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“Wait,” Trevn voiced. “Not yet.”
Rosârah Laviel picked up two bottles from the bottom row of one of the
racks. Holding one in each hand, down at her side, she turned and jumped,
eyes locked on Hinck, who was still holding an open bottle in his hand.
Rosârah Laviel lifted her chin. “I will not speak of this if you will not.”
Hinck nodded once and slipped out the door, leaving his bucket behind.
He strode down a short hallway and out into the light of day. He fell against the
outer wall of the building and released a trembling breath. “Sands! I thought
I was dead!”
“Don’t just stand there,” Trevn said. “She might discover what you’ve done.
Get yourself somewhere safe!”
Hinck ran, and Trevn drew back into his own mind again. He opened his
eyes and found Barek Hadar standing over his bench.
“Is everything all right, Your Highness?” he asked.
“I hope so,” Trevn said. “Hinck? Will the rosârah question you?”
“If I had only been there to steal a bottle, perhaps not, but those bottles she
took . . . They were filled with water, Trev. What will happen when she drinks
some?”
“You’d better not be there to find out,” Trevn said. “I want you off that island.
Today.”

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